• Structure 17, Glassblowing and Island Drive

    Historic Jamestowne

    Part of Colonial National Historical Park Virginia

Tradesmen on the Lot of Governor Harvey - 1630s

Jamestown apothecary in a sketch by NPS artist Sydney King

Jamestown apothecary processing medicinals

NPS artist Sydney King

Governors such as Sir John Harvey and Sir William Berkeley were concerned that Virginia colonists had become too focused on tobacco as a primary means of support. The tobacco market was subject to great fluctuation and could not be relied upon as a sure-fire way to a quick fortune. In addition, natural resources which could be minimally processed and exported were not being exploited and opportunities for industrial experimentation were not being explored.

When Sir John Harvey arrived in Virginia in the Spring of 1630 as the colony’s new governor, he set to work following the King’s instructions to begin producing marketable goods. In May, Sir John sent samples of rape seed, salt peter, pot-ashes and iron ore to England, proof that the Privy Council’s instructions were being taken seriously. In his reports, the new governor stated that ship-building had begun and that iron ore had been discovered; he also urged that craftsmen such as brickworkers, carpenters, smiths and shipwrights be sent to Virginia.

Archeologists have found evidence of craft and trade activities at several Jamestown sites. A lime kiln and brick kiln were excavated by the James River near the present-day Memorial Church. Near the Pitch and Tar Swamp, an industrial zone dated prior to 1650 was unearthed in the 1950s, revealing a brewhouse and apothecary, as well as evidence of the production of pottery, brick, tile and lime.

 

Did You Know?

Painting by Sidney King representing settlers searching for medicinal plants

The botanical sassafras was at one time worth its weight in gold as a medicinal plant. It was an early Jamestown export. In modern times it has been used to flavor root beer.